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Booze and Brews: The Best U.S. Cities for Distillery and Brewery Tours

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Let’s leave wineries for another blog post (we wrote about several here, in fact!) Here are our six favorite U.S. cities for distillery and brewery tours:


No, we haven’t already been sampling the spirits at a local distillery. Yes, we know Kentucky is an entire state, not one city. The bluegrass state is home to the legendary Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a string of 42 bourbon distilleries. They stretch across the entire state, from Newport in the north to Franklin in the south, and nearly all points in between, although many are grouped around Lexington, Louisville, and Bardstown. The distilleries that make up the trail include such famous names as Bulleit, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, and Wild Turkey, along with lesser known but much-loved names, such as Angel’s Envy, Heaven Hill, Rabbit Hole, and Green River. Most of the bourbon distilleries offer both full tours, which average about 90 minutes in length, and tastings without a tour. Choose a city to begin your journey, then spend a week traveling the scenic byways of this beautiful state. Wherever you stop for the night, you’ll find a variety of choices for accommodations and meals. Don’t miss the barbecue!

Portland, Oregon, and Portland, Maine

Two cities that bookend the U.S., one on the east coast and one on the west, share both a name and a reputation as must-visit destinations for beer lovers. If the Portland, Maine beer scene is a little less developed, it’s only because Portland, Oregon happens to be the home of more breweries than any other city in the world. With Maine, you get a charming seaside town where you can spend your days enjoying the sandy beaches and your evenings bending an elbow at one of the many micro and craft breweries. And Portland, Oregon is, as some call it, pure beervana, with roughly 70 breweries to choose from. Whatever your favorite type of beer—stouts, porters, sours, ales, or lagers—you can find it here, but hoppy, citrusy IPAs are particularly popular.

If you like a taste of spirits along with your brew, Portland, Oregon does double duty with Distillery Row, an industrial neighborhood with eight distilleries that craft a variety of liquors.

Washington, D.C.

There are an abundance of reasons to visit Washington, D.C., from the many world-class museums and cultural institutions to the monuments of the National Mall. One reason that may not be as well known, however, is that Washington now has several fresh, unique distilleries where you can lift a glass of vodka, gin, bourbon, brandy, rum, and more. Many offer tours and tastings, and some serve award-winning grub to accompany their spirits. And of course, because it’s Washington, there are many, many outstanding choices when it comes to places to stay and restaurants to enjoy. Come for the history lesson, stay for the distilleries. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.”

Boston, Massachusetts

Here’s a fun and perhaps surprising bit of trivia—Boston drinks more beer per capita than any other city in the U.S. I’m sure Portland, Oregon would like to have a word. Boston’s most famous brewery is Boston Beer Company, which makes Samuel Adams, but it’s home to several others as well, from large commercial ventures to micro-breweries. And it should come as no surprise considering Boston’s near-legendary beer consumption, but each year, the city presents the American Craft Beer Fest, hosting more than 140 American breweries. There’s another quote that’s often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, and even if he didn’t say it, it’s too good not to include: “Beer is God’s way of telling us that he loves us and wants us to be happy.”

Denver, Colorado

52 craft distilleries have banded together to form the Colorado Spirits Trail, and more than a dozen of them are grouped in the Denver area. Unlike its spiritual kin in Kentucky, the Colorado Spirits Trail includes distilleries that create a wide variety of spirits, from vodka and whiskey to gin and, yes, bourbon. Schedule a tour or a tasting to enjoy in the high mountain air. When evening comes, trade in your ski jacket for something sparkly and discover Denver’s lively cocktail lounge and speakeasy scene. The mile high city has also become something of a destination for serious foodies—lamb, trout, bison, Palisade peaches, and, if you’re feeling brave, rocky mountain oysters.

Much like Portland, Oregon, Denver is as much a beer town as a spirits town, with over 150 breweries. Drink up, but remember—the air may be thinner there than what you’re used to, and alcohol tends to work a little quicker. 

Brooklyn, New York

As you’re planning a trip to New York City, it may be hard to tear yourself away from the bright lights and entertainments of Manhattan, but do yourself a favor and cross that famous bridge to Brooklyn. The borough has many worthy delights, and Brookyn’s collection of fine craft distilleries by all rights should rank near the top. What makes it truly special is that those distilleries—of gin, rum, whiskey, bourbon, rye, and more—are nestled among some of the best restaurants and cocktail bars in the area. For lovers of spirits—for lovers of a good time in general—Brooklyn is hard to beat. One special suggestion when deciding which distilleries to tour and taste: be sure you add Widow Jane Distillery to your list. It’s also a chocolate factory!

If you’re planning on hitting the distillery or brewery trail, learn about why you should use a travel agent to get the most out of the experience.

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